During a 10-week period in the spring of 2009, four researchers reviewed evening cable TV, national radio talk shows, ideological political blogs and mainstream newspaper columns for 13 variables, such as insulting language, name calling and misrepresentative exaggeration. Researchers also judged overall tone of each sample and proportion of outrage language.
Almost 9 out of 10 cases sampled, or 89.6 percent, contained at least one outrage incident. One hundred percent of TV episodes and 98.8 percent of talk radio programs contained outrage incidents, while 82.8 percent of blog posts incorporated outrage writing. In some cases, outrage speech or behavior occurred at a rate of more than one instance per minute.
More Outrageous: Liberals or Conservatives?
When it comes to inflammatory language, is one side really worse than the other? Yes, found the Tufts researchers: “Our data indicate that the right uses decidedly more outrage speech than the left. Taken as a whole, liberal content is quite nasty in character, following the outrage model of emotional, dramatic and judgment-laden speech. Conservatives, however, are even nastier.”
The data showed the political right engaging in an average of 15.57 outrage acts per case, while the left engaged in 10.32 acts per case.
No one should have to suffer through 10 weeks of this kind of research. My sympathies to the researchers. While it seems to give a good general view of “outrage” speech it still leaves a foggy notion of why and how much of that kind of speech might be justified. This is from a recent web article about far Right conservatism and their spin, distortion and outright fabrication of mostly U.S. history, but also world history and science. American History Only a Conservative Republican Could Believe,
8. Galileo was a conservative.
You may recall how conservatives made lifelong socialist George Orwell into a neocon icon. Now they’re trying to do the same thing with Galileo.
You may think Galileo’s an odd choice, because he’s history’s most famous scientific dissident, having been forced by the Catholic Church to deny his heretical finding that the earth revolved around the sun. But it’s not his devotion to truth that makes him attractive to conservatives — it’s his persecution. As they feel themselves persecuted by a liberal conspiracy, conservatives will easily adopt as their avatar any historical figure who suffered and was later shown to be right, regardless of the relevance of his cause to theirs. If you’ve seen The Passion of the Christ, you know how it works.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, for reasons that should be obvious, has long portrayed Galileo’s ordeal as not so bad; why, the Pope didn’t even torture him, he just threatened to, and anyway the Church was only reasonably trying to “prohibit the circulation of writings which were judged harmful.”
Scholarly apologists such as Jonathan Weyer and Paul Feyerabend have amplified the theme, but their heady thoughts were brought crashing to earth by National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, who in 1999 attacked the “ancient, pro-enlightenment, zealot spin” on Galileo with easy-reading versions of the Catholic argument. (Dinesh D’Souza provided similar arguments at a slightly higher reading level.)
Galileo may have been prosecuted by the Church, said Goldberg, but he was persecuted by “jealous fellow-scientists,” one of whom he compared to James Carville. Actually, Goldberg said, the Church loved Galileo. Admittedly they did try him, but that was “very complicated” — the upshot being that “one need not look much further than then-Senator Al Gore’s treatment of dissenters on global warming to see how modern inquisitions work.”
Thus continued the rehabilitation of Galileo — no longer the enemy of the Church, but the patron saint of global warming denialists. In 2001 the American Spectator called skeptic Lloyd Keigwin “The Galileo of Global Warming” and claimed he made a giant contribution to discrediting a movement that would impose a deadly energy clamp on the world economy….” More recently the “ClimateGate” scandal prompted a new wave of Galileo reclamation, with Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal lamenting, “The East Anglians’ mistreatment of scientists who challenged global warming’s claims… evokes the attempt to silence Galileo.”
Scan the blogs, and you’ll see plenty more of this stuff (e.g. “The Great Global Warming Inquisition”). Next stop: J. Robert Oppenheimer — Victim of a Liberal Conspiracy.
First let me pick on the author who describes Orwell simply as a lifelong socialists. In today’s political environment is is especially important to include subcategories. Orwell was a democratic socialist who hated Soviet style communism. Communism and all forms of socialism tend to be lumped together in our political discourse. Almost always to score cheap points in a debate. I’m not a fan of socialism, but say having my only choices being between Orwell’s socialism and Fidel Castro, I’ll take Orwell any day. The Goldberg mentioned in the piece wrote a book which equated liberalism with fascism – what one would call outrage speech. His very premise defied logic. Liberalism is the antithesis of any strain of authoritarianism. Goldberg could not provide any scholarly evidence for his thesis, see here and here. An entire tome devoted to indicting a political ideology was no more than an attack, disguised as what passes for ‘research” on the Right . On the other hand when Media Matters calls attention to and documents the lies of Fox News and Bill O’Reilly, Media Matters is referred to as a “hate’ sight by those pundits caught in a lie or spin. Is Media Matters response that this or that pundit is lying counted as an incidence of hateful political speech. If the researchers counted Keith Olbermann saying this about the fact Bush and Cheney broke laws against torture (confirmed by both),
It is a fact startling in its cynical simplicity and it requires cynical and simple words to be properly expressed: The presidency of George W. Bush has now devolved into a criminal conspiracy to cover the ass of George W. Bush.
All the petulancy, all the childish threats, all the blank-stare stupidity; all the invocations of World War III, all the sophistic questions about which terrorist attacks we wanted him not to stop, all the phony secrets; all the claims of executive privilege, all the stumbling tap-dancing of his nominees, all the verbal flatulence of his apologists…
All of it is now, after one revelation last week, transparently clear for what it is: the pathetic and desperate manipulation of the government, the refocusing of our entire nation, toward keeping this mock president and this unstable vice president and this departed wildly self-overrating attorney general, and the others, from potential prosecution for having approved or ordered the illegal torture of prisoners being held in the name of this country.
Does this count as an incident of outrage speech. Would the researchers say there is an equivalence between torture and the initial cover-up and calling someone a “mock” president. These public exchanges are sometimes just verbal sparing, but in the case of torture, someone was wrong and someone was right, and it is one of those cases where there is a clear right and wrong. Olbermann’s assertion of criminal conspiracy seems restrained in comparison to someone who would defend Bush and torture by calling critics terrorist sympathizers. These back fourths in print, in traditional broadcast media and the net are flame wars writ large and much of it – see Glenn Beck, Micheal Savage, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter – consist almost entirely of hyperbole, name calling and wild speculation. i.e. Al Gore points out the fact of global warming and that makes him the same thing as a modern inquisitor. Someone is inevitability going to call a critic such as Goldberg an idiot or worse. In high school authority figures frequently dismiss distinctions over who started it or why a fight started. This is not supposed to be high school. It does matter who started it, who keeps fueling the hate and propagating the lies. Counter punching should not be made equivalent to the initial punch. A fight would not have begin without provocation. In the long war, the ideological wars, that is a large part of what the ceaseless historical revisionism is on the Right. To portray their adversaries as the bullies and themselves as the victim. The anti-science crusade on the Right makes the comparison of themselves to Galileo, one such absurd attempt.